I swear, I did not purposely drop my sun hat on the walk back from dinner at the end of a great, long first day of traveling. But it gave me a great chance to go back and hunt for it, and to walk through the crowds eating, drinking, laughing, listening to music and gallivanting around the Ljubljanica River. And while I enjoyed the rare feeling of going at my own pace with no one to carry or cajole, I had time to ponder the _____experience of traveling with children. I tried to write that sentence with various words: Lunatic? Magical? Gruelling? Humbling? At times today it felt like all those words.
There were definitely times I wondered, “why did we bring them? Why not go to Rehoboth Beach like a normal family?” I am sure my in-laws traveling with us, or anyone who happened to be near us, wondered the same thing. It is hot. Hannah and Margaret have not yet adjusted to being hot and walking a lot. In my memories, they used to be able to do this in Israel, but it might just be that, my memories. Who knows if it was ever true? It was humbling to be brought face to face with the sweaty, annoying reality of traveling with young children. The real deal, not the stuff I had imagined as I lived my regular life in boring Delaware. We had some epic whines and tears. In the penitentiary of Ljubljana Castle, my father in law pointed out the plaque that said the most common crime that used to land women in the clink was child murder. We both laughed ruefully. (Of course, I know this is not funny).
But the day was also loaded with magic. Ljubljana Castle is not only a tourist attraction but also a cultural center for Slovenes. So in between viewing exhibits and climbing the tower we could stretch out in lawnchairs at the Library Under Trees (which was stocked with both English and childrens books). And along the riverfront we met a pair of goofy, friendly artists who had set up a sponteous puppetmaking workshop for kids. And kids notice all the littlest things that we might not, from the different kinds of toilet flushers to the much-more-awesome European scooters and bikes. And that is really why we travel –to show ourselves and our kids that there is no one way to do anything. (For instance, this Slovenian keyboard has a z where my y would be).
And sometimes you just to improvise, as when our guide wanted to talk for a while about city history. Terence and Hannah made up a game of “feeding facts.” As she explained it, “we just break things down so we can understand them. Miha says something. Daddy makes it into something I can understand. Then I make it into something you can understand, and then you can tell Margaret.” (I love her rank ordering of our family intellectual firepower). So Margaret and I wandered off to a gazebo that was conveniently located in the square nearby and looks like the one in the Sound of Music. (We are getting some mileage out of the fact that we are near the Same! Alps! The VonTrapps Climbed!). We pretended to be Liesl and Friedrich, dancing around, while Hannah shuttled back and forth feeding us facts about Roman walls and Napoleonic conquests.